Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)


Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

Full-Length Musical, Comedy  /  3w, 5m

Based on the original book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields and the novel by C.Y. Lee

A dazzling update to Rodgers & Hammerstein's jewel, Flower Drum Song. Mei-Li is a naive young refugee from Mao's communist China, who befriends Wang, a man struggling to keep the Chinese opera tradition alive.

Image: 2002 Broadway Production (Joan Marcus)

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    3w, 5m
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature)
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences
  • Nominee: 2003 Tony Award, Best Book of a Musical



“To create something new, we must first love what is old,”claims Mei-Li in Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang's new adaptation of this Rodgers & Hammerstein jewel. The sentiment is obviously shared by the author himself, who has created something dazzlingly new while honoring the original material.

Mei-Li flees Mao's communist China after the murder of her father and finds herself in San Francisco's Chinatown. This naive young refugee is befriended by Wang, who is struggling to keep the Chinese opera tradition alive despite his son's determination to turn the old opera house into a swingin' Western-style nightclub. A unique blending of American razzmatazz and stylized Chinese opera traditions creates a beautifully theatrical tapestry. The wonderful score, by turns lushly romantic and showbiz-brassy, retains all of its luster in this lovely new version of an American classic. Mei-Li's gradual assimilation is informed by her realization that the old and new can coexist when there is respect for both. It is in that spirit that Concord Theatricals makes available both the original and new versions of Flower Drum Song.


Flower Drum Song opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on December 1, 1958, starring Miyoshi Umeki, Pat Suzuki, Larry Blyden, Juanita Hall and Ed Kenney. The show ran for 600 performances. Flower Drum Song returned to Broadway in 2002, with a revised book by David Henry Hwang. The revival, which opened on October 17, 2002, starred Lea Salonga, Sandra Allen and Jose Llana.

Act I

In a Prologue, Mei-Li begins a flower drum song learned from her father (“A Hundred Million Miracles”), which becomes the theme as she begins her own journey to the West. Protesting against the rigid doctrines of marching Chinese Communists, all of whom regard Mao as their “Fater,” Mei-Li’s father stands bravely against the Maoists, who drag him away under arrest, but not before he urges his daughter to flee the country. She will later learn that he died in prison. Storytelling techniques of Chinese opera depict Mei-Li’s perilous trek across the ocean, her precious flower drum in hand, huddled in a ship’s hold with other refugees. Eventually they arrive, breathing the fresh new air of freedom, in California, U.S.A.

Mei-Li arrives at the Golden Pearl Theater in San Francisco, run by her father’s oldest friend, Wang Chi-Yang, who had come to America years earlier. His wife died on the crossing. Wang clings to his mission to perform traditional Chinese opera here, despite ever-shrinking audiences. With few performers available, his son, Ta, is forced to play the traditional women’s roles (“At the Golden Pearl”), but the young man’s heart is in Nightclub Night – the one night his father lets him use the theater for high-stepping, low-brow revues starring the object of his affection, Linda Low. Ta sees Mei-Li’s arrival as an opportunity to hand over the women’s roles to an actual woman. She, in turn, is fascinated by Ta’s Western ways, although confused about how Chinese he is and how American he has become. She is also smitten by Ta himself (“I Am Going to Like it Here”).

Ta’s chorus is rehearsing for Nightclub Night when Linda arrives, late as usual. Ta has come up with a new idea, inspired by Mei-Li. Why not combine the Chinese culture with Western striptease? Linda is only mildly amused and has scant knowledge of traditional Chinese ways; she rebuffs Ta’s advances because she only dates Caucasian men. When Mei-Li visits her backstage to learn about American dating customs, Linda realizes this new girl has fallen for Ta, and offers to help Mei-Li land Ta, starting off by explaining how much better life is for women in America than in China: “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” The song becomes the hit of Nightclub Night.

Father Wang is appalled, but his wise old sidekick, Chin, is amused. Mei-Li tells Ta that he shouldn’t ignore traditional ways; her father had told her how wonderful Ta’s parents had been when they performed “The Flower Boat Maiden.” She explains that the story isn’t as he thinks – “corny” – but a beautiful tale in which the maiden makes the humble scholar realize he is a god (“You Are Beautiful”). When the song is over, Mei Li and Ta find themselves staring in each other’s eyes, unexpectedly. Ta plants a quick kiss on Mei-Li’s cheek, then apologizes. “You Americans – you apologize too much,” she says.

Madame Rita Liang, “theatrical agent for Oriental talent,” has seen Nightclub Night and has just signed Linda Low, for whom she has big plans. Those plans include transforming the Golden Pearl Theater – “That name… it’s not even logical!” – into the hottest nightspot in Chinatown. She quickly rallies everyone – except Master Wang – to her vision of a place palatable to Western tourists curious to see some exotic Chinese culture (“Grant Avenue”). Reluctantly, Master Wang lets Nightclub Night take over – for a while, at least.

One of Mei-Li’s fellow boat travelers, Chao, has a job at a fortune cookie factory. When he makes the daily delivery to the club, he is surprised to see Mei-Li. He asks her out to dinner. It’s opening night, so she can’t go. Ta observes the conversation and senses Chao’s interest in Mei-Li. When she shares her inability to grasp American dating habits, he playfully assures her that she’s the kind of girl whose appeal is much simpler, that some day a special guy will want to spend an idyllic “Sunday” with her. Mei-Li goes backstage for advice from Linda about how to deal with her increasing interest in Ta, who has asked for a “long talk” after the performance. Linda loans Mei-Li one of her dresses, and suddenly Mei-Li is transformed from a plain girl into a beautiful young woman (“I Enjoy Being a Girl” Reprise).

It is the grand opening night of the new Club Chop Suey. Linda’s new number, inspired by Mei-Li’s idea of using fans, kicks things off in a smoky, sexy fashion (“Fan Tan Fannie”). Due to audience demand, the club presents three shows, and the Mayor is expected at the third. Something is bothering Wang; despite his stubborn views, he’s beginning to like what’s going on in his theater. But there’s a sailor number that’s not going over so well. Harvard, a young man who has agreed to make all the costumes in exchange for a features spot, just isn’t cutting it. So, with his performer’s instincts taking over, Wang assumes the role himself and leads the company in “Gliding Through My Memoree.”

The show is a big success, and Wang is so happy with his transformation that he decides he needs a new name – Sammy Fong. Linda’s plot to fix Ta up with Mei-Li, however, backfires. Ta feels he’s been set up, and refers to Mei-Li as a consolation prize. He regrets what he’s said – but it’s too late. Mei-Li has heard him and runs off, only to appear back in her Chinese clothes, alone. She finds herself a refugee once again, among a group of fellow disillusioned immigrants (“Finale – Act One”).

Act II

Several months later, Sammy Fong’s new nightclub number features dancing chopsticks, chorus girls in take-out cartons, and Sammy front and center. It goes too far on almost every level, but does indicate that he has joined with Madame Liang on her notion of spreading their Chinatown clubs across the country (“Chop Suey”).

Ta is now disgusted with his father, feeling he has not only sold out, but taken Nightclub Night away from him. Ta can think of little other than Mei-Li. Old man Chin decides to take the upper hand, first explaining about love (“My Best Love”) and then informing Ta of Mei-Li’s whereabouts: she is working at the fortune cookie factory with Chao (“I Am Going to Like It Here” Reprise).

Mei-Li, unhappy to see Ta, tells him she is going to Hong Kong with Chao. Ta wishes them well, and leaves. Chao is thrilled and suggests they sell her flower drum to help pay for their trip. She agrees.

Sammy Fong and Rita Liang share a moment at a Chinese restaurant. They are quite obviously growing close, but warn each other not to get too close (“Don’t Marry Me”).

Linda is leaving for Los Angeles. Ta comes to say goodbye, although he really thinks he wants to go with her. “You’re my first love…and my last chance,” he tells her. His life feels empty – even Mei-Li is leaving. Linda mentions that she has seen Mei-Li’s flower drum in a pawnshop. The next morning she’ll be off on the 7:00 am Greyhound; if Ta wants to join her, it’s up to him.

Their dreams of a better life shattered, a group of Chinese gather at the docks to return home. Mei-Li is among them, not sure she’s made the right decision (“Love, Look Away”). Ta enters with her drum. He knows how important it is to her, so he has missed the bus to Los Angeles in order to retrieve it from the pawnshop. He wishes her luck.

Back at the theater, Ta has developed an appreciation of the old Chinese tradition, and he now leads the performers in the same opera that we saw the troupe rehearse at the beginning ("The Most Filial Son"). Father and son have reconciled, and Wang tells Ta that his mother made him feel more than a man. “The love of a beautiful maiden turns a humble scholar into a god,” Ta says.

“You’ve still got it wrong,” says a voice from the dark. It is Mei-Li. She has decided not to go back. She wants to stay. “The love of the flower boat maiden does not turn the scholar into a god. He has always been a god,” she says. Ta asks whether he is indeed the man for her (“Like a God”). In prayer, they seek the blessing of their ancestors as they choose a life together.

Ta and Mei-Li’s wedding is a big event for everyone ("Processional"), including Linda, who comes up from LA. It is a traditional Chinese wedding, but clearly one that takes place in America, a country where Chinese people seek a new future, regardless of where they were born. “A hundred million miracles are happening every day” (“Finale”).

Wu Mei-Li – a new immigrant from China, in her twenties
Wang Chi-Yang – a Chinese opera actor and immigrant to San Francisco, in his fifties
Wang Ta – his Chinese American son, in his twenties
Chin – an old family friend of the Wangs, a Chinese man in his sixties
Linda Low – a Chinese American showgirl, in her twenties
Harvard – a Chinese American, in his twenties
Madame Rita Liang – a Chinese American talent agent, in her forties
Chao Hai-Lung – a new immigrant from China, in his twenties
Mr. Chong – the Chinese American owner of the On Leock Fortune Cookie Factory
Mr. Lee – a Chinese American restaurant owner
Citizens of the People's Republic of China, Communist Party Members, Mei-Li's Father, Soldiers, Refugees, Chinese Opera Company Members, Immigrants, Showgirls, Chorus Boys, A Ghost Couple, Stage Manager, Photographers, Reporters, Factory Workers, Emigrants, Warrior Dancers, Maiden Dancer, Wedding Guests and Citizens of San Francisco Chinatown.

A large singing-dancing chorus consisting of Citizens of the People's Republic of China, Communist Party Members, Mei-Li's Father, Soldiers, Refugees, Chinese Opera Company Members, Immigrants, Showgirls, Chorus Boys, A Ghost Couple, Stage Manager, Photographers, Reporters, Factory Workers, Emigrants, Warrior Dancers, Maiden Dancer, Wedding Guests and Citizens of San Francisco Chinatown.

This version of Flower Drum Song is set in China and San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1960. All of the characters are Chinese or Chinese American. It is this author’s hope that these roles be cast with actors of Asian ancestry whenever possible. – David Henry Hwang

The use of make-up or prosthetics to alter an actor's ethnicity is prohibited.

This version of Flower Drum Song is set in China and San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1960. All of the characters are Chinese or Chinese American. It is this author’s hope that these roles be cast with actors of Asian ancestry whenever possible. – David Henry Hwang

The use of make-up or prosthetics to alter an actor's ethnicity is prohibited.

  • Time Period 1960s
  • Setting Various locales in San Francisco's Chinatown, circa 1960.
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Duration More than 120 minutes (2 hours)


Flower Drum Song continues to live and breathe, and sing, as joyously as it did three and a half decades in the past... Revolutionary for its time, it continues to be so in ours.” – Inside Asian America

“Rodgers has composed one of his more persuasive scores, and Hammerstein has written lyrics that are moody and amusing...a delight; everything about it is just right.” New York Daily Mirror

“Another notable work by the outstanding craftsmen of our musical theatre...a lovely show, an outstanding one in theme and treatment.”New York Daily Mirror


  • Flower Drum Song Promo - Palo Alto Players 2019 youtube thumbnail

    Flower Drum Song Promo - Palo Alto Players 2019

  • Red Bucket Follies 2018 - Flower Drum Song Celebration youtube thumbnail

    Red Bucket Follies 2018 - Flower Drum Song Celebration

  • Flower Drum Song - Ed Sullivan Show 1958 youtube thumbnail

    Flower Drum Song - Ed Sullivan Show 1958

  • Flower Drum Song - Press Reel 2002 youtube thumbnail

    Flower Drum Song - Press Reel 2002


  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

    Image: 2002 Broadway Production (Joan Marcus)

  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

    Image: 2002 Broadway Production (Joan Marcus)

  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

    Image: 2002 Broadway Production (Joan Marcus)

  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

    Image: 2002 Broadway Production (Joan Marcus)


Music Samples

Act I

1. Prologue, Part I (“A Hundred Million Miracles”) – Mei-Li & Ensemble
1a. Prologue, Part II – Orchestra
1b. Prologue, Part III (“A Hundred Million Miracles”) – Mei-Li and Ensemble
2. “The Golden Pearl Theater” – Ensemble
3. “I Am Going To Like It Here” – Mei-Li
3a. “Jazz Bit” – Showgirls
3b. You Be The Rock – Orchestra
4. “I Enjoy Being A Girl” Part I – Linda
4a. “I Enjoy Being A Girl” Part II – Linda & Ensemble
4b. “I Enjoy Being A Girl” Playoff – Linda & Men
5. The Flower Drum – Orchestra
6. “You Are Beautiful” – Mei-Li & Ta
6a. “Flower Boat Dance” – Ta & Mei-Li
7. “Grant Avenue” – Madame Liang, Linda, Harvard, Ta, Mei-Li & Wang
7. “Grant Avenue” Parade – Madame Liang, Chin & Ensemble
7. Grant Avenue Playoff – Orchestra
8. “Sunday” – Ta & Mei-Li
8a. Scene Change (Mai Tai) – Orchestra
9. “I Enjoy Being A Girl (Reprise)” – Mei-Li
10. “Fan Tan Fannie” – Linda & Ensemble
10. “Fan Tan Fannie” Playoff – Linda, Women & Harvard
11. “Gliding Through My Memoree” – Wang & Ensemble
11a. The Most Filial Son – Orchestra
11b. The Girl in the Yellow Dress – Orchestra
11c. Let’s Make an Exit – Orchestra
12. Finale Act I (“A Hundred Million Miracles”) – Mei-Li & Ensemble

Act II

13. “Chop Suey” Part I – Wang & Ensemble
14. “Chop Suey” Part II – Liang, Wang & Ensemble
15. Ta’s Memory – Orchestra
16. “My Best Love” – Chin
17. The Fortune Cookie Factory (“I Am Going To Like It Here” Reprise) – Mei-Li, Chao & Workers
18. Fish Heads & Chicken Feet – Orchestra
18a. To the Golden Dragon – Orchestra
18b. Cocktails on the House – Orchestra
19. “Don’t Marry Me” – Madame Liang & Wang
19. Don’t Marry Me Playoff – Orchestra
20. “At the Docks” – Mei-Li & Emigrants
20a. “Love, Look Away” – Mei-Li & Emigrants
21. Return to the Golden Pearl (“You Are Beautiful” Reprise) – Ta
21a. Wang Plays the Girl – Orchestra
22. “Like a God” – Ta
22a. “Prayer”/”Like A God” Reprise – Mei-Li & Ta
23. Finale, Part I (The Processional) – Orchestra
24. Finale, Part II (Wedding Monologues) – Orchestra
25. Finale, Part III (“A Hundred Million Miracles” Reprise) – Company
26. Bows – Orchestra
27. Exit Music – Orchestra

Full Orchestration

Reed I Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Dizis in C, D, Eb, F (high) & B, Bamboo [Bonsuri] Flutes in E (low), F (high) and G)
Reed II (Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax)
Reed III (Oboe, English Horn, Flute, Clarinet & Tenor Sax)
Reed IV (Bass Clarinet, Bassoon & Baritone Sax)
Trumpet I (Doubling Flugelhorn)
Trumpet II (Doubling Flugelhorn)
Trombone (Doubling Bass Trombone)
Guitar (Acoustic, Archtop, Electric, Banjo, Ukulele, Mandolin and Pipa)
Keyboard (see Keyboard Book for breakdown)
Violin I (Doubling Violin)
Violin II (Doubling Violin)
Viola (Doubling Ehru)
Concert Bass Drum
Bell Tree
Finger Cymbals
Dragon Drums
Bamboo Chimes
Rain Stick
Brass Bell
Temple Blocks
Mark Tree
Cow Bell
Whip (Slapstick)
Tuned Water Bowl

  • Musical Style Classic Broadway
  • Dance Requirements Difficult
  • Vocal DemandsModerate
  • Orchestra Size X-Large
  • Chorus Size Medium

Licensing & Materials

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.

    PLEASE BE ADVISED: There are multiple versions of this title. Before you proceed, please double-check to ensure that you are applying for the version you want. We will not be able to refund rental or shipping fees if you pay for the wrong version. If you’re not sure which version best suits your needs, you may purchase a perusal for each available version.

Music Rentals

Concord offers a full suite of resources to help you put on the show of a lifetime!
From Librettist David Henry Hwang:

When I was a kid, I generally had this policy of avoiding plays or movies or TV shows with Asians because they always made me feel kind of icky, but Flower Drum Song was an exception in the sense that you had an actual love story between an Asian man and an Asian woman, which you still don't see much of today. You had a younger generation that acted pretty much American, and you had this great score and these wonderful dance numbers. And, it also established a generation of Asian stars for my parents—that whole era—and, for me, it was one of the few things I saw on television as a kid that I could at all relate to. So, it actually had a lot of meaning to me as a kid. I think it was incredibly brave of [Rodgers and Hammerstein to write the show], and it was incredibly brave of them also to do it with an all-Asian cast. I think this probably relates to—this is just my own theory—Hammerstein with Carmen Jones and having those sorts of breakthroughs. I think, probably, it was part of their principles or their agenda to be able to present this other minority group as being Americans like everybody else. Over the years, that concept of what it means to be American like everybody else has sort of dated a bit. You can quibble whether this part of the original Flower Drum Song is authentic or not, [but] I think it was authentically felt, and I think their intentions were pretty radical. [The production is being billed as a new musical.] If you ask me, I think the best word for it is a remake. It's most analogous to "Ocean's Eleven" or David Cronenberg's "The Fly," where you take something that existed before and you build a new piece on it. Now does that make it a new musical? I don't know—that's up to producers and critics and other people to decide. It doesn't fit neatly into other traditional categories.
20 Libretto-Vocal Book
1 Piano-Conductor
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Reed 3
1 Reed 4
1 Horn
1 Trumpet 1
1 Trumpet 2
1 Trombone
1 Guitar
1 Keyboard
1 Harp
1 Drums
1 Percussion
1 Violin 1
1 Violin 2
1 Viola
1 Cello
1 Bass
1 Logo Pack
20 Libretto-Vocal Book
1 Piano-Conductor
1 Logo Pack


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C.Y. Lee

C.Y. Lee (1915-2018), born in Hunan, China, received a B.A. degree from Southwest Associated University, Kunming, China, and an M.F.A. with a major in playwriting from Yale University.

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